Fit and Frustrated in the City
The Healthy View
Written by: Dr. Mehran Tabrizi, Chiropractor, Cambridge Clinic
As we are once again faced with gym closures, many are wondering how to stay both fit and sane during these difficult times. What follows is a blueprint for your physical and mental fitness to navigate this partial shutdown, until next time we meet.
There are many ways to engage with our bodies to optimize our well-being that require little space and little or no equipment. In consideration of the reduction in activity and the additional stress you may be facing, one thing to keep in mind is the 20/50 rule. This rule tells us that doing 20% of your exercise workload for a week will help you to maintain 50% of your fitness with regards to strength and flexibility. So, if you are discouraged by the disruption to your routine, just know that all is not lost.
To keep you in form from the neck-down, here are some tips:
Posture: We can get rather particular when it comes to analyzing posture and trying to correct it, but it is important to remember that your best posture is your next posture. Cycling through different positions and orientations over the course of a day is key to warding off the stiffness and pain that can come from any prolonged position.
Hip Hop: No dancing required! This position is shown in the picture above and it incorporates tall kneeling with internal rotation of the hip. Tall kneeling is something that we seldom practice, but is a useful skill in getting up from the floor. Adequate hip mobility not only increases ease of movement, but is also important to low back and knee health. You may also notice the position of the wrists in the photo—to assist with the aggressive typing that we may do.
Have a Ball: Also key to stability is a healthy core. When we have pain, our muscles are inhibited— including those that work behind the scenes, like our pelvic floor. One way to activate this area is to actively lift your scrotum. Needless to say, there is no need to 'crush' this exercise; it's just a subtle movement.
Balance: Tandem walking forward and backward looks simple, but is actually quite challenging. Lining up your heel and toe directly in front of each other is the goal in practice, but starting by consciously narrowing your gait is a stepping stone, if you will. You can increase the complexity by having your favorite beverage—please apply common sense.
Some of the challenges we face are also above the neck. So, here are some practices to optimize your neurology and your stress levels:
Eyes Wide or Shut: Our visual system consumes 50% of the brain's blood flow—that is a lot of energy expended. If you shut your eyes for 10-20 seconds and apply gentle pressure on the top of your eyelids, you reduce both stimulation and stress. Conversely, when your eyes are open, practice peripheralization—noticing things on the periphery of your vision, especially when outside.
Breathing: It is the basic foundation of our lives, but there are ways to make it work for more than survival. Try a three second inhale through the nose, followed by a three second hold, then another three second inhale; complete the cycle with a nine second exhale, through either the nose or the mouth. Using your pinky fingers on either side of your nose to gently expand the nasal cavity as you breathe can also be beneficial. Repeat four to eight breaths, three times per day. This will help to down-regulate your sympathetic tone, enhancing your immune system and quality of sleep.
Stack with Gratitude: Sprinkling gratitude into your breathing practice will give you a hit of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine—those feel-good chemicals that we naturally produce that boost our mood. Even in these times, there is something to be grateful for.
These activities may be quite different from your usual gym routine; however, they are key to functional and sustainable fitness and mobility that will keep you engaged in all your other pursuits— whenever they become available again. In the meantime, if you're binge-watching Sex and the City, approach Peloton with care, and feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions.